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Dragonfly drones take to the air for the first time

10 July 2017

The drone programme that uses live dragonflies to fly by fitting them with small backpacks has achieved lift off, pushing the boundaries of hybrid drones.

DragonflEye in testing at Janelia Research Campus (Credit: Draper)

Engineers at Draper created a new kind of hybrid drone by combining miniaturised navigation, synthetic biology and neurotechnology to guide dragonflies. The dragonfly wears a tiny backpack fitted with electronics, sensors and a solar cell. A light source charges the solar cell, which powers the backpack.

Potential applications of the technologies underpinning DragonflEye include guided pollination, payload delivery, reconnaissance and even precision medicine and diagnostics. 

DragonflEye has been a team effort between Draper and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) at Janelia Farm to create new optogenetic tools that send guidance commands from the backpack to special “steering” neurons inside the dragonfly nerve cord.

Watch the video to see behind the scenes footage of the dragonfly take to the sky!

Material courtesy of Draper 


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